‘Serious casualties’ for Fine Gael says Aird

The balance of Fine Gael’s power was lost in Portlaoise with the failure of Cllr Kathleen O’Brien to retain her seat.

The former councillor gained just 362 number one votes, and didn’t attend the election count.

Willie Aird, 54, was the only Fine Gael Cllr to make it through on the first county with 1,450 votes, and was “absolutely delighted.

The win was from personal votes he said.

“All the people made it very clear, it was a personal vote. In several places they told me if there was a general election Fine Gael wouldn’t be getting a vote,” he said.

“There are serious casualties here for FG, we went out with 12, and are going back with six, we are very badly hit,, I feel so sorry for them,” he said.

“I have been working for years and years for the people,” said Cllr Aird, elected to Portlaoise TC in 1979 and Laois County Council in ‘85.

He kept his canvass local and is now “looking forward to meeting the people” of south Laois.

It wasn’t until the tenth count that FG’s Mary Sweeney secured her seat. Praising “Team Sweeney” for orchestrating a wonderful campaign, Cllr Sweeney said: “It was a difficult campaign from the point of view of people. I’ve met people at the door who were in serious financial difficulty and that really upset me an awful lot. I’ve seen the reality of what’s happening, but we are going to be addressing that in the October budget.”

Cllr Sweeney reckoned she had benefited from the expanded electoral areas and “got votes out of every box”, but she saved a special word for her home of Ballyroan: “Ballyroan is brilliant, that’s my spot and only mine and let nobody attempt to take it.”

Her joy was tinged with sadness at the loss of fellow longtime FG stalwart Kathleen O’Brien.

“It’s a big loss for FG in Laois, I’m deeply disappointed about that, it’s a sad day,” she said.

Also losing out for FG was Abbeyleix candidate, Jim Ring, who was eliminated on the ninth count.


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